A chance at dinner with Obama now costs only $3

On paper, it looks like President Obama may be turning into a cheap date. His re-election campaign is shifting downward the already-low contribution threshold for small donors seeking a chance to have dinner with the president.

The Obama campaign has been offering donors of $5 or more a chance to win a dinner with the president. But today, the campaign sent supporters a message from First Lady Michele Obama lowering the price to donations of $3 or more.

"These dinners mean a lot to Barack. They're a chance for him to talk with a few of the people who are driving the campaign--and a chance for him to say thank you," Michele Obama's email reads. "So come prepared to tell your story, and say whatever's on your mind. Don't miss the opportunity to be there. Donate $3 or more today, before the Sept. 30th deadline."

The shift presents an inviting opening for late-night talkshow hosts and GOP presidential hopefuls to crack wise about the sour state of the economy in the Obama years. In reality, though, there's a more likely--and mundane--inside-the-Beltway explanation for the downgraded barrier to entry in the Obama dinner sweepstakes: the Obama campaign's need to boost third-quarter fundraising totals among small donors.

A spokesman for Obama's re-election campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Ticket.

Like other campaigns, the Obama campaign has frequently touted the number of contributors who donate small amounts as a measure of grassroots support.

But the president is facing more pressure than his Republican rivals on this front, in part because he enjoyed unprecedented support among small donors in 2008. So far, the president's re-election campaign has had trouble persuading many of those contributors to donate again. A "vast majority" of Obama's 4 million donors from 2008 have not contributed to his 2012 campaign, the New York Times reported earlier this week.